This post was originally published on July 25, 2016.
It’s hard to imagine actress Kristen Bell not smiling, let alone suffering from depression. But that is precisely why she makes an ideal role model for people battling the chemical blues. In a recent post, E! News reported that Bell—the Veronica Mars star—once felt “plagued with a negative attitude” and having always been a very upbeat person, she suddenly found herself feeling like a dark cloud was hanging over her head. “I stopped feeling like myself,” Bell said. Since 18% people over the age of 18 reportedly suffer from depression in the US, Kristen Bell’s depression is probably something many of us can relate to. But how many of us admit to it?
The Man, The Myth, The Stigma
A good friend of mine always says, “A problem shared is a problem cut in half,” and that is something I think about when discussing the stigma around mental health. Depression is a chemical imbalance in our brains that often causes us to feel isolated and alone, even when we are surrounded by people. Even when they are people who love us, it isn’t always enough to combat the malaise. But what I have found helps me is that the combination of the right medication and being able to talk to someone I know understands because they have been through it.
That is why celebs like Bell—along with Demi Lovato, Jon Hamm, Russell Brand and Lady Gaga—have stepped out of the shadows to share about their battles with mental health, in hopes of letting others know that they are not alone. I am sure the fact that these stars have also achieved success in their careers is pretty inspiring to anyone who feels like things are never going to get better. Bell attributes her ability to ask for help to her mother, who encouraged openness about mental health at a young age. “If there ever comes a time where you feel like a dark cloud is following you,” her mom told her, “you can get help…I want you to know that there are options.”
Bonding in Struggle
Not only has Bell’s open mind served her in treating her own depression, but I imagine it’s been a crucial reference point when trying to understand her husband, Dax Shepherd’s addiction. He has been sober for more than 12 years. Knowing what it feels like to struggle against something bigger than you running the show inside your head is a concept many people can’t relate to. This may be why depression and addiction are still such misunderstood ailments.
NY Daily News reported that it was Bell’s relationship with Shepherd (the two have been married since 2013) that gave her insight into how much people struggle to overcome their issues; giving her a passion for helping them. And that’s not just talk. Bell recently donated $10,000 to PATH, People Assisting the Homeless, an organization that helps people transition out of homelessness and addiction.
Time and a Place
As important as it is to speak out about addiction, depression and other mental health issues, there is a lot of value in confidentiality as well. Many 12-step groups have not accidentally attached the word “anonymous” to the end of their name—it allows people to seek the help they need without having to accept the labels and stigmas that may be attached. But I believe that personal anonymity should be the choice of the individual. Anyone who has faced and worked through (emphasis on the past tense) challenges in their life has a lot to offer others dealing with similar experiences.